This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
03 Dec 1993: Ngubane, Ben
POM Doctor, if the IFP does not participate in the elections next April what options are open to it? How would you evaluate the consequences of those actions?
BN It's not an issue which has been addressed while I was there. I wasn't at the last central committee meeting because I was overseas so really I couldn't give you an in depth answer to that. But basically what the IFP has been saying is we have lived in a oppressive situation under a regime that totally disregarded what we wanted, we survived under that. If our fate is that we have to do the same again we will do it and we will do exactly the same and protest and keep going until hopefully we get the other side to understand the fundamentals of our position. Essentially that is the position at the moment. I do not think it will change dramatically other than it being the total strangeness of strategy like saying now we're going to armed rebellion and I cannot see the IFP doing that: (a) it doesn't have the capacity, (b) the whole philosophy during the opposition to apartheid has been non-violent protest and political action and maximising whatever diplomatic pressure one can. I do not see many other options outside that one.
POM It looks as though this will be a campaign built around personalities where you have Mandela and De Klerk and you have Buthelezi, and people will vote more on those names than on specific party platforms. If Dr Buthelezi were to retire from politics, as has been suggested that he might, how do you think that would affect an IFP campaign?
BN Well any party that were to lose its long-standing leader at a crucial point when it has to campaign and project itself to the voters and to the public would suffer a tremendous setback so if Buthelezi were to retire now, which would be a tremendous set back for the IFP, I don't think the party would readily accept such a proposal even from him.
POM So your hope is even if he were to attempt to do that, the party would make a ...?
BN I don't think the party would readily accept a situation like that. It would be at its most vulnerable time.
POM How would you distinguish between Chief Buthelezi speaking as leader of the IFP and the leader of Inkatha, the cultural movement, and his role as Chief Minister to King Zwelithini. For example when he makes statements about the Zulu nation and the Zulu nation will not be dominated by Xhosas?
BN He has not said so, he said, "by outsiders".
POM By outsiders. Is he speaking on behalf of the Zulu nation and is he also speaking on behalf of the IFP which is not a Zulu party per se?
BN No he is speaking entirely from the perspective of territorial autonomy, not from any other perspective such as democracy, political party work, it's purely in terms of territorial autonomy. When he says that he is saying whoever were to rule Natal, if the NP won the province or if the ANC won the province or if the IFP won the province, it would still do so within the parameters of the territorial autonomy of the Zulu kingdom. That's all he means. He doesn't mean that it will be an ethnic state to the exclusion of other people.
POM I don't mean that. What I'm getting at is who is he speaking on behalf of?
BN He's speaking on behalf of the people who own this piece of territory historically.
POM He's talking about the Zulu people, not on behalf of the IFP?
POM But the IFP would endorse that position?
BN The IFP would endorse the position of the right of the Zulu people to have self-determination. Remember that the Zulu people, the people of this region, probably 80% are Zulu speaking and they are the major part of our constituents and so what affects them as a group is of paramount concern to the IFP. Unfortunately those over there, I must say it's unfortunate but there is a very distinct distinction between him as Chief Minister of KwaZulu and him as President of the IFP.
POM If you were to participate in elections would your emphasis be more on running a regional campaign as distinct from a national one?
BN There is an Election Committee now that was established, I really wouldn't want to speak for them. From my own perspective it would be absolutely vital to ensure that we have a power base and then, of course, try and do as best as possible in the national elections so that even in the central parliament we have an effective voice, but power bases in politics particularly where it's a regionally based type of politic are very, very important and we want to win Natal because Natal can give us strength in the centre.
POM There's already a number of surveys which show the ANC and the IFP running neck and neck in Natal and even the fact that there is a kind of low intensity civil war, one would expect there to be high levels of both violence and intimidation surrounding elections there. Do you think if there was a result where one party were to lose by just a small margin, do you think that either side would claim in those circumstances that it had been robbed?
BN Well this would depend on the environment within which the election is held. If it is characterised by high intimidation levels, prominent activity by MK, now it's going to be part of the peacekeeping force and it is said that MK will be going with guns and in its uniform patrolling booths, obviously people will be dissatisfied with such a situation. So if there was a narrow margin those feelings could certainly explode.
POM Do you expect the levels of violence to decrease between now and next April in Natal or to maintain their current very high level?
BN Again it depends on the levels of confidence that our people will have regarding the fairness of this process. [how much alienated from its ...] It's a thing that's very circumstantial in that it can go either way, but judging by the present trends I think we might expect increased levels of violence because the elections will be going on in a situation where the final constitution is not accepted by everybody so it's an imposed political settlement as it were. The right wing will probably be doing its own things and more than IFP, this kind of thing tends to spread once it starts somewhere so it will depend on the response of the right wing, how it's responding to the election, how the central government is dealing with us in terms of our concerns. It's a very multi-factorial type of situation, what will happen. It's difficult to predict now but one can say if the state of polarisation that we are in now carries on to the election then we can expect an escalation of violence.
POM Under those circumstances would it be possible to have free and fair elections in Natal?
BN We have always said we are very doubtful that such a thing is possible without a proper political settlement that's accepted by everybody first. We cannot see it happening just given the degree of divisions in the country and the political intolerance that is there. There are no-go areas even now. There are parts where we can't go to hold campaigns without the danger of being shot at. I mean the fact that those situations exist make it highly likely that it might deteriorate.
POM Given the joint ANC/government approach to the World Bank, the IMF and the declaration by the ANC that they are prepared to follow the fiscal constraints which are part of the condition of getting IMF and World Bank loans, how would you distinguish between the economic policies of the IFP and now of the ANC which seems to have done an 180° turn?
BN Well it's appreciated that there has been a realisation that we cannot go with socialist policies.
POM The ANC accepts that?
BN Well seemingly they accept this. From what they are saying it would seem that they accept this but how powerful the communists as a factor will be in the new government that is again a different story. We are not sure that when the ANC leadership speaks it speaks for all segments of the alliance. We are not sure. I know COSATU still wants a workers' state, still wants a very socialised economy, still wants to subordinate all rights to worker rights. They even contemplated a national strike because there was a clause allowing for lock-out by employers in a situation of general strikes. So if that faction becomes dominant after the elections, and it well might because it's a huge portion of the ANC constituency combined with the SACP, one can't guarantee that what the ANC says today is what is going to be practised after the election.
POM I don't know whether you've seen the newspapers today? There was a survey carried out by ...
BN I saw that in Johannesburg, Business Day. Look, I know him personally. He's ANC, he's a partisan person. Now how do you accept results based on someone who belongs to a particular camp? I mean the impartiality of that report is not satisfactory as far as I'm concerned. The methodology might have been correct but the person who is interpreting the results, I would have loved to have seen Human Sciences Research Council looking at the same results and hearing what their conclusions are, or the Institute of Race Relations as well looking at this. It's purely on interpretation. These things overlap so much that big business in London said to me that from what the ANC says we are happy with because essentially they are concerned with bridging the gaps, opening up the economy to everyone. We are happy with this so long as there is no direct intervention in the running of the market itself. So a lot of big business will accept that but then given a second question which would be the right to expropriate property in order to make good or make amends for the past wrongs, how far would that right go? You see, that's a different story. When you pose that question, that reality, they might start also being concerned and also wanting more guarantees and so on. We can go on and on along that road. For instance, we are talking of public health care in this country. It is going to have to be an all-embracing policy, decision, in fact discouraging to some extent private health services in favour of more money to the ...
POM Public sector.
BN Sure. Now when it comes to application how much interference is there going to be with the private sector in health care? We don't know. So those results I don't take them at face value. There is a bit of bias there.
POM There have been a number of polls done, one by Markinor in July which showed that 3% of metropolitan blacks and 7% of whites would vote for the IFP nationally and an HSRC survey showed that the IFP had only 31% support in Natal. Would you dispute those figures?
BN Again, if you look at the nature of the constituencies they vary so much. By and large the ANC tends to be supported by elitist groups. We tend to be supported by the grassroots and the ordinary people in the countryside and the typical, traditional people in the townships and those are not the people who are accessible to these people who do the polls. So a huge chunk of the universe which represents us, our way of thinking, is not tested. So again, it sounds funny if you keep repeating all these things, but really how much credence can you attach to it? Have our people been canvassed properly? Before I left two weeks ago there was an IFP meeting in one of the branches in Soweto and there were 2000 people there in Soweto and we have got 34 branches in Soweto. Now if someone is going to say in the PWV we have no representation or no support it's not true because we have support but it depends who you ask in those townships and you can say the hostel population probably comes from KwaZulu but they are residents in the Transvaal and ordinarily when they vote they will vote as people of that region. So we will see anyway. Polls have been wrong. They were wrong with Mugabe and Nkomo you remember? They predicted that Nkomo would win hands down as didn't happen. They were wrong in Britain, so they are even more likely to be skewed here given the diversity of population, the different levels of education and development and so forth.
POM I'm publishing nothing until 1997. Part of what I will be doing is coming back to you every six months.
BN So this is a perspective study?
POM I've been doing this since 1989 through 1997, I redo the same people over and over. I'll send you a copy of this transcript then I'll get you hopefully again in six months, then 1995.
BN This is a good study.
POM I hope so.
PAT You got us mid way through so you haven't had to do the first four years.
POM That means I don't publish anything of what anybody says to me in that period of time, so if you were a betting man would you bet on the Freedom Alliance on the one side or the IFP on its own coming into the electoral process between now and April?
BN Oh it's difficult. What I can bet on is either the IFP will go fully into the process and co-operate fully or it's going to take a far more definite step away from the process. I cannot see a middle way as is the case up to now. Somewhere along the next few weeks a very clear decision is going to be made either to co-operate fully or to go a different way.
POM In the light of the demands that you have that must be somehow accommodated, I mean negotiated not accommodated, I am struck by the fact that Roelf Meyer said in a National Party Congress in Durban about two months ago, he said, "It seems to us that one of the most important things Inkatha leaders want is to ensure self-determination for the Zulu people. We believe that it's attainable." First of all was Mr Meyer correct in his assumption?
BN I think he was correct to a point. If we wanted purely Zulu self-determination we would have jumped at the chance to take independence like Bophuthatswana, like Transkei, but we did not because while we want self-determination it is not in the ethnic sense purely. So Roelf Meyer was being naughty there. In fact he used the text of our negotiation. I was quite annoyed when he made that statement because that was part of the discussion that we had had and we had put a lot of surrounding and supporting reasoning to that statement that for us it is preferable that Zulu self-determination occurs in a federal system not in an ethnic state. So it will be accommodated in Natal/KwaZulu because the English of Natal, the Indians of Natal, the Zulus of Natal can find a medium for that kind of self-determination where the King still has some role, some function, but not as an entirely Zulu state.
POM What do you mean by self-determination?
BN We mean that Zulu institutions, generally Zulu language, Zulu culture, Zulu forms of government will survive in the new South Africa within a regional framework.
POM Here I come back to the question of when the IFP takes that position it's speaking as a Zulu party rather than as a ...?
BN No, no, no. I think I'm still not getting through to you. When the IFP speaks of federation it speaks of federation in a truly democratic sense because it says that the diversity in this country can be accommodated in a federal situation where everyone feels close to the government of his region or he feels that he is participating. That's the only form of governance that will allow for diverse qualities to exist even in one region as opposed to rule from a minister sitting in Pretoria. That's what he's talking about. When we as KwaZulu government speak of federalism we mean precisely the territory that we have ruled over coming together with the territory that at present is ruled by the NPA and agreeing, as we do in the Joint Executive Authority, on how we are going to rule Natal. Now the agreements we were building on were leading us to one legislature, one executive. How we arrange power sharing in that sort of situation is up to further negotiation between the parties represented in this region.
POM So it no way implies a secession or independence or anything like that?
BN No, no, certainly we haven't come to that. I'm not saying that may not ultimately be the case. I'm not saying so, but that's not the issue at the moment.
POM He went on to say, he had a four point plan and he said, "One, first at the national level should be a federal system which provides for allowing the regions to determine their own future. Two, the constitution should make specific provisions for specific powers that will be exclusively exercised by the regions. Three, the national constitution should provide for regional constitutions. And four, provision should be made for the development of a regional KwaZulu constitution." He said those things, almost implying that the National Party would back those things, two months ago and it seems to be that those four things would go a very long way towards meeting your demands.
BN Of course, that's when we said we chose to break through. That's what we said.
POM What happened?
BN They reneged on all those things. They will tell you that we can still achieve all those things with the present constitutional draft and we tell him he's fooling us because we can't, not with the present draft. This would have taken a totally different presentation in the constitution if we were going to follow this path.
POM Did the ANC veto that?
BN I must assume that because they abandoned that, they abandoned a lot of other things that we seemed to agree on. We had even spoken of elections in the regions preceding national elections so that there is a very definite separation of the constituencies, of the voting constituencies. Now they've lumped it all together on one day, on one ballot. This is totally new. We could never agree to such a thing.
POM You're in bilaterals still with the government?
BN That's right. But I've been away for two weeks so really I can't say. Bilaterals at the moment? Right now they're having a bilateral in Pretoria and I'm sitting here.
POM If somehow there was agreement reached between IFP and government, would the two then have to turn around and sell that to the ANC?
BN That's right. Sure.
POM You'd have to start from scratch again.
BN Well not really. We would have to negotiate with the ANC but the government will have to commit itself to the fact that it's agreed on this, but it never does so. We discuss and agree with the government, they go to the ANC, we don't know what they say to the ANC because we were not there when they talked to them but invariably when they come back they come back saying what we have agreed is not possible and so on.
POM Does the issue of there being a single ballot affect the IFP in a very material way?
BN It affects the whole concept of federalism, completely. First of all federalism would imply different constituencies making decisions and the national voting taking place on its own, number one. Also it should make it possible to have one party running KwaZulu/Natal and a totally different party running the central government. Under the present dispensation I can't see that happening because essentially the same proportions in the central parliament will reflect at the regional registration simply because at every stage you are introducing the totality of votes at the national level so I cannot see how that factor is going to allow for serious, meaningful variations in the different provinces.
POM Would that be one more thing ...?
BN That makes it difficult.
POM Not makes it difficult but would you demand that there be two ballots? Would you participate in elections if the single ballot issue just ...?
BN Well the single ballot issue is tied up with the whole approach to provincial government. Thirty days after the first sitting of the parliament after the elections the State President will have to appoint a commission on regional government, that's what the constitution says. Within that period you must have appointed a commission on provincial government and the terms of reference of that commission is to ... provincial government. It will be the recommendations on the constitutions for the regions, on the structure, on the functions that will ultimately determine what type of provincial government we have in this country. Now what we have in this present draft constitution, so the powers that are in Schedule 6 are interim powers for interim provincial governments and all their empowerment depends on an Act of Parliament empowering them to do X, Y, Z. There's no original power for provincial governments in the present draft. So just making a concession on a single ballot allowing for multiple ballots will be one factor but we cannot live with the commission on provincial government. That's a thing we cannot accept because it makes the whole thing meaningless. How do you create a central authority to decentralise power? It doesn't work that way. It must be bottom up from the regions themselves.
POM Do you think the government was either badly out-negotiated by the ANC during the talks or that the government got by and large what it wanted under the circumstances?
BN I think it must have got what it wanted and what it wanted was for the National Party and not for us. This is the only conclusion one can come to because really they got nothing for federalism which they claimed they stood for.
POM In CODESA 2 you had bipolar negotiations. You had the ANC and its allies on one side of the table and the government and it's allies, including the IFP, on the other side. Then you had the collapse of CODESA, strikes and stayaways and then you had the Record of Understanding.
BN Which is the source of all the problems we have.
POM Why? Why did the government switch partners?
BN Well the government realised that white power was doomed in this country, other than in terms of economic leverage, management leverage, but generally it is doomed. So when they look around they came to the conclusion that the ANC would win the first elections and so they were happy to work with them. I mean I would do that if I was in their shoes, you would go with the side that would win if you are not fundamentally committed to a certain principle and the South African government has never been fundamentally committed to decentralising power. They have always held all power, accumulated all sorts of enabling legislation around that power; to detain people without trial, to be very arbitrary in everything they do, so we never really trusted them when they said they were federalists and they have proven us right, they never were at heart.
POM What does the National Party stand for?
BN At the moment I would say it stands for ensuring its own survival as far as is possible within a governmental structure.
POM Say I, as a white person, and somebody from the IFP came along to me and somebody from the National Party came along to me, why should I vote for one? What would be more convincing that I would vote for the IFP rather than the National Party?
BN If you wanted to be effective in South African politics for the next ten years or more and federal then you would vote for a black party because ultimately power is going to be a tussle between the IFP and the ANC in this country. Those are the two parties that will emerge ultimately as the major parties for this country. In fact with the present proposed single ballot most of the small parties will just be wiped out. They will be forced either to go on the ANC ticket or to join the IFP. Most of them obviously at the moment will choose to go to the ANC because they seemingly are going to have very big majorities so if people wanted to have some share they will go there.
POM People like to vote for the person or party they think is going to win.
BN Yes, sure.
POM You said after the interim constitution was adopted that, "Whatever is written in this draft constitution is totally volatile because the draft empowers a Constituent Assembly to tear apart the interim constitution and replace it with a total revision." Again, relating to the negotiations that are going on between the government and the IFP, at this point if the IFP goes into the elections it will in fact become a two-stage process. Right? [You will be accepting the right of ...]
BN To reconsider, to rewrite.
POM The whole thing.
BN Absolutely. It will be legitimatising. That's why it is almost impossible for us to agree to go into such a situation.
POM It seems to me that's impossible because you would be accepting the right of the Constituent Assembly ...
BN Yes, to carry out this.
POM One reads in the papers every other day, great breakthroughs imminent, you have all this very optimistic press.
BN But because you were quoting what Meyer has said, that's what we were talking about. These were the sentiments he was expressing right through so we say if we go on like this and we clinch this then the way is open for us, but then he didn't mean it as events have proven.
POM Sorry, I didn't get that last point.
BN I said we have been proven correct. We doubted that he meant it. You remember what you quoted of Roelf Meyer?
BN We doubted that he meant it seriously but nevertheless we said if we can attain this as he promises it is attainable then we would have had a breakthrough but then he reneged on that so as things stand it's impossible for us to legitimise or to legitimate the two-phase process.
POM So if the ANC insisted that the provision in the interim constitution which says that a Constituent Assembly can totally rewrite from scratch a new constitution you could not accept that?
BN No. Impossible.
POM Dr Buthelezi said that the chances of civil war are fifty/fifty. Under what circumstances do you think South Africa could be plunged into civil war?
BN I don't think that would be an actual thing. I think if we proceed with this present draft and implement it as it is we are not satisfied, Bophuthatswana are not satisfied, the AVF are not satisfied, the CP are not satisfied, then naturally even if initially they are overpowered in terms of superior state might, the state gets what it wants, but if there are important factions like that in society who are not satisfied with the political dispensation, they will undermine it and they will undermine it to such an extent that you will have upheavals and civil war because they are a major section of the population, well an important section of the population with a lot of capability and capacity to do things that will disrupt. I mean if the IRA in Ireland can be a nuisance small as it is what more are the Zulu people and other people colluding towards stabilisation? This is what he's talking about. It's not that immediately on election day there will be civil war or anything, he's just talking about the progression of events, polarising society further leading ultimately to violence.
POM Now as the Bill reincorporating the independent states into South Africa the day after the election, all homelands and parastatals will cease to exist as such which would mean that the KwaZulu legislature would go out of existence, the KwaZulu government as formed, government funding of the homelands would also cease to exist, what does that do to say the capacity to resist?
BN I don't think the capacity to resist is in any way tied up with the present existence of the KwaZulu government. That capacity rests entirely with the people of the region insofar as to what extent do they feel aggrieved, to what extent do they reject whatever is imposed upon them. How strongly do they feel about it? Are they prepared to die for it? You know what I mean. So really it has nothing to do with being rich or being poor and so forth. It's just something, I mean the ANC built up its resistance from nothing. What it will mean is, of course, it will perpetuate the status quo as far as KwaZulu is concerned. The rest of the country will enjoy new powers and new freedoms but the people of that region will not enjoy those freedoms so it will be perpetuating oppression, albeit that it is done by blacks but it will be.
POM We briefly mentioned the capacity of the Zulu nation to make a unilateral declaration of independence. Is that a financially viable option?
BN Again really it's not related to that, it's because, you don't have to be a government to do so.
POM You don't have to be a government to ...?
BN Say I am now forming my own government in exile or outside the main structure. Right now the Zulu government is going on in terms of the chiefs, courts, tribal authorities, the whole set up in the countryside of chiefs, headmen. It's a form of governance which is not dependent on the governance given to us by Pretoria. It's government of the people by the people at their own level. No amount of government and war machines can stop that because it can be there without having a structure, without having a building, but it can be there. So really I don't think one can relate it to the question of finances.
POM Again, would the position of the IFP be that of what Dr Buthelezi has said when he talks about the ANC as being a Xhosa dominated organisation?
BN But he doesn't talk about that, does he? Probably once or twice he might have. Normally he doesn't speak about that, he avoids that sort of thing because he doesn't want to accentuate ethnic differences. When he speaks about that he's really talking about the region, our region. It's got it's own history, it's own institutions. Not so much we reject these other people because they are Xhosa per se, just as much we would reject foreign dominance by anybody be it Xhosas or the Boers, so equally domination from Pretoria and whoever sits in Pretoria is not acceptable other than as per agreement.
POM When you look at the present constitution what parts of it can you live with? Is it meaningless?
BN No, no, most of it is OK with, of course, a lot of concerns regarding fundamental rights. The whole content of fundamental rights in the constitution does not create a value system directed at ensuring liberty and freedom or protecting human dignity. That's what we want to see in the constitution. It empowers the state to do certain things. The state can tolerate privacy of the home, privacy of letters, this and that, but the state has got all the capacity to limit those rights whenever it decides even if parliament has got to assent to such limitation, it is the majority party in power which has to make the decisions. There is no obligation that the state must get authorisation from the people directly for imposing such limitations. We see the difficulties but we can live with it. We can live with a lot of things but when it comes to the issue of decentralising power then the constitution falls flat on its face.
POM Does the IFP's association with elements of the Freedom Alliance which are, to put it bluntly, racist, affect the way black people react to it? It's an odd combination, it's a marriage of convenience.
BN Yes well people ask questions about that and we always tell them that it's an association where we are fighting an issue, it's not an association that carries us to a new election or to an electoral ticket. It's an attempt to stop the process from subjecting us to dictatorship. That's all. It's not a question of saying now these are our political partners we will move forward with them.
POM If you had to grade the constitution on a scale of one to ten, where one represents great dissatisfaction ...
BN I would give it six. I would pass the major part of it on the basis that it is a beginning and a constitution can evolve, but when it comes to the part that deals with the decentralisation of power I would say that's where I would take four marks away. I cannot fail it just because it fails decentralised power because after all it is a major leap for this country to have a constitution that embodies and guarantees universal franchise. That in itself is a huge leap forward. But certainly that section makes it unsatisfactory.
POM Some people have said to us that elections must take place on April 27th even in the face of high levels of violence and intimidation, that it is more important to have an election that confers a sufficient degree of legitimacy on a new government than to wait for some ideal date down the road which might never happen.
BN That is a spurious one because they made it not to be legitimate to all of us by blocking meaningful bargaining at the negotiation process, so they may use that as a convenient argument to say, "Elect us, we'll show the rest of the story later on", but it doesn't get accepted because they have actually prevented, when the opportunity was there, a settlement of those issues adequately and to the satisfaction of everyone. So they may say we are creating a legitimate government but there will still be a lot of people who will not consider that government as legitimate as far as their interests are concerned. So really it will not solve the stability issue. I don't think so. You still have to be coercive to have order, law and order in the country, not because people are co-operating.
POM Do you think that in that situation there would be no foreign investment, no matter what happened foreign investment ...?
BN Foreign investment comes - as long as people can still make money they will invest. Even at the height of the Vietnam war there were many speculators who were running guns and running the black market. It depends on how secure they are in terms of getting what they want. Even now we have got a very high level of violence in this country but were it not for sanctions I am sure we would still be having investments in this country. Investments went away because it was a deliberate policy to stop investments coming into the country.
POM So would you expect foreign investment no matter what?
BN Well at the moment it's difficult because there is no meaningful foreign investment coming in because of the sanctions so if it takes longer to come it will not be because there is lack of agreement on the constitution. It will be just that it was not there and, of course, further breakdown of law and order will discourage even those who were starting to think of coming back. It's a continuing of what the ANC started. Now they turn it round and say it is the people who oppose settlement, who oppose the vote who are killing investments. I mean, really, that's really reversing things.
POM What would you put as the major difference between the IFP and the NP and the IFP and the ANC?
BN Well the NP was the oppressor, was the racist party and the creator of apartheid, totally immoral as far as I am concerned. When it suited them they imposed apartheid on us. When it suits them now they pretend to be rescuing the country from apartheid by abolishing all these, at a stroke of a pen, all these institutions they created. They are opportunists. I don't trust them. It's purely because it's to their advantage to do so. That's the difference. They haven't given me anything to judge them by up to now. I don't know what's going to be their record on human rights in the coming months and years. I don't know how non-racist they are going to be, whether if you are a black person if you can really rise to the top in that party. I don't know how much they will promote their economic leverage to promote black empowerment, entrepreneurship and so on like they promoted Sanlam and all the other institutions. I don't know.
On the other hand with the ANC I fear they are authoritarians and their tendency is to be extremely cruel as they have shown, disregard for human rights, cruelty, disregard for human rights in their camps, their levels of political intolerance of any sort of dissent or opposition where you can kill people who oppose you. [I oppose ... different from us] IFP, our people also have been drawn into violence but that is not our policy. We have not sat down in the Central Committee and said, "Now we're going to engage a way, we're going to kill X, Y, Z people", taking decisions that we'll attack those soft targets and destroy them. We've never done that. Instead we have spoken about protecting human rights, bringing justice to people, decentralising power and so on.
POM And yet the ANC have been very successful in selling its propaganda that the IFP in collusion with the South African Police were behind most of the violence.
BN Sure. I agree. With the function of money and the function of having people to do that job. We don't have that money. We don't have experts in propaganda, we don't have offices in every capital of the west. And we are not about to expand whatever assets we have doing that because we'll never win that game. That's a huge operation. You have got to have powerful friends. They had powerful friends in the Kremlin and they are still benefiting from that type of investment.
POM When you look at the negotiation process, even after you left it, two things, one, what were the critical turning points?
BN Well it was the decision that they are now going to have certain election dates when we had not made any progress on constitutional principles and establishing a constitutional framework. We had not even decided what the form of state will be about which we will be voting. Then also when they insisted that there can be no other modality for the transition other than the two-phase process then we said it rules us out because we are committed to a final constitution now, a referendum and elections for a fully empowered government whereas you are telling us that we will vote for a party to write the constitution. We are diametrically opposed to this. So when those things became hard facts and were adopted in spite of all our protests, in spite of the fact that there were eight parties against what they were saying, three parties abstaining and then only fifteen parties voting for that type of approach, then Gordhan and Motlana declaring sufficient consensus, then we realised that this was a steamroller, it wasn't negotiation at all. We were just there to reinforce the unfolding of the Record of Understanding. Then at that point we said we will not see that legitimate process with which we disagree fundamentally. The honest thing is to leave it and then see what can be done from outside.
POM In terms of compromises and concessions, what compromises and concessions did the government make and what compromises and concessions did the ANC make?
BN Well I always hear the story about compromises and I really get puzzled because compromises when you have something very fundamental then you can say, I'm going to make a compromise, the fundamental issue is I'm going to have an independent KwaZulu but because we are all now tied into one country I'm not going to ask for that I'm going to ask for a federal solution. Then I would say I'm making a compromise. Now the ANC has been about power all along, all they wanted was the transfer of power. Now you must win a war to achieve that. You cannot say we are compromising having failed to achieve a transfer of power through arms, then you go to the negotiating table and then you say you have compromised by coming to the negotiations because it wasn't in your power to take the power anyway. So when they say they have compromised I say it baffles me because there is nothing they have comprised about. They have entered negotiations because their first strategy didn't work. Now they have tried to win what they could not win on the battlefield and they are trying to win on the table by seizing all power. To me that's no compromise, it's merely changing strategy and tactics.
POM Did the ANC get more of its strategic goals than the government?
BN Well it has now. Absolutely. The government has lost. The government has traded everything for a few posts for Roelf Meyer, for Dawie de Villiers, for Leon Wessels, for FW. This is what they have traded everything for as far as I'm concerned.
POM So if you were a member of the National Party how you would feel?
BN Absolutely disgusted with them because they have thrown the rest of their members to the winds essentially. At least if there is going to be meaningful regional government in a federal sense you would say all the parties would have a chance to fit in their people at the different levels of government but now in fact there's going to be so much centralisation that we cannot talk meaningfully of regional government. There won't even be Cabinets, there will be Provincial Councils, so as far as I'm concerned they have thrown their people to the winds.
POM What do you think is the lowest common denominator? How far do you think you can go before a bottom line is reached beyond which you cannot go?
BN Well we have reached the bottom line, right now. That's why I'm saying it's either the government in these negotiations now today and probably next week finally gives us something to participate for and then we agree that we can live with that and we co-operate fully with the April 27th elections or there is a complete breakdown and then we think of what alternatives.
POM Well let's say the government and IFP reach adequate accommodation, then you go to the ANC and the ANC says, "We will have none of this", what should government do? What do you expect government to do?
BN Government stands for what it believes. If it's serious about federalism then it must say so and say to the ANC, "This is our bottom line, it's a federal South Africa", and not to play the games they have played now where there is a totally indefinite scenario being created, a scenario where the chances of federalism ever being established takes two thirds of the vote in parliament and the chances of a unitary state only needs one third to be established. This is the reality now. To establish federalism with the present set up we would need to pass two thirds majority to get it and people who don't want federalism just need one third to block federalism and then we have a unitary state because the next government will be elected into a unitary framework so they have nothing to lose, they win all the way.
POM So would you expect government in those circumstances to say, "We and the IFP have agreed on the following and unless we can ..."
BN That South Africa will be a federal state. That's what we want.
POM And if the ANC says no, would you then expect government to say, "OK in that case we're not going to participate in the election on April 27th?"
BN Sure. Absolutely. Then there's an impasse.
POM You'd want them to back you up?
BN Sure, absolutely. Then they are sincere, because how can you want something and be prepared to accept something that's not what you want and you still say you want the first thing? That's it. If they want a unitary state they must say so also. They must not double speak, they must say they want a unitary South Africa, that's what we've always had, we like that type of system, then it's finished and klaar, but at the moment they think they can fool us and get whatever advantages they derive from the ANC.
POM On a scale of one to ten, my famous scale, how confident are you that differences can be worked out given what appear to be great chasms, fundamental?
BN At the moment really I am very pessimistic. It's even difficult to measure it. I'm very, very pessimistic. I mean why would the ANC now want to make compromises? The agreement has been accepted and signed, it's going to be passed in parliament, the TEC has been passed and they are going to be law on the 9th of this month so they are sitting in clover so why should they want to make a compromise? If the ANC says it won't go to elections if it's a two-phase process so I'll say, "Bugger you, then it's going to be a two-phase process", so I'm eliminating my enemy. So I would really be surprised if now at this stage - it was like after naming the date and having it accepted, endorsed by the multi-party forum, the ANC didn't need to negotiate one more line. They had their election date, they didn't need to. They could have simply filibustered right through to the 27th and that's what we said they will do and in a way they did it because there has been no real shift from where they stood at the beginning of the negotiations and now they achieved that.
POM Thank you ever so much for coming after flying back, I really appreciate it.
BN Thank you.
POM And see you again within six months? I hope things work out.
BN I hope so too.